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IES Grant

Title: Project STAY: Supporting Teachers of Autism in Years 1-3
Center: NCSER Year: 2021
Principal Investigator: Morin, Kristi Awardee: Lehigh University
Program: Early Career Development and Mentoring      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (7/1/2021 – 6/30/2025) Award Amount: $700,000
Type: Training Award Number: R324B210017

Mentors: Kern, Lee; Leko, Melinda; Spybrook, Jessaca

Purpose: The Principal Investigator (PI) will conduct a program of research for improving outcomes for teachers of students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) while participating in mentoring and training activities to develop expertise in school-based research, mixed methods and group design research, and grant and publication writing. Teaching students with ASD requires knowledge of evidence-based practices and other unique skills that are often not taught in preservice programs. Without them, teachers may lack the ability and confidence to meet their students' needs and be at increased risk for stress and burnout. Given that stress and burnout are strongly associated with attrition, support for teachers of students with ASD is critical, especially for novice teachers in under-resourced schools. As such, the goal of the current study is to develop an induction program to support novice teachers of students with ASD who work in under-resourced schools.

Research Plan: The PI will use an iterative approach to develop STAY, an induction program for new teachers that includes mentoring, training, observation of exemplary teaching, formative assessment, and participation in a network of teachers. In Phase 1, the PI will develop the program using a mixed methods approach, including a review of relevant literature, focus groups with educators (novice and experienced teachers of students with ASD, school personnel, and district-level specialists), classroom observations, and meetings with an advisory board of researchers and practitioners. Stakeholder feedback will shape the essential components of the induction program and help determine the feasibility of implementing these components within under-resourced schools. During Phase 2, the PI will implement STAY using a quasi-experimental design; obtain extensive feedback during and after implementation through interviews with mentor teachers and novice teachers and the collection of data on teacher and student outcomes, fidelity, and feasibility; and refine the program based on the feedback. In the final phase, the PI will conduct a randomized controlled trial with approximately 20 teachers and 40 of their students with ASD to evaluate the promise of STAY for improving teacher outcomes (self-efficacy, job satisfaction, teaching effectiveness, intention to stay in teaching, burnout, and role conflict and ambiguity) and outcomes for students with ASD (academic engagement and goal attainment). In addition, the PI will determine the costs associated with implementing STAY.

Career Plan: Through a career development plan, the PI intends to accomplish the following goals: (1) increase capacity to conduct school-based research, (2) develop expertise in mixed methods and group design research, and (3) enhance skills in grant and publication writing. This will be accomplished through meeting with mentors; consulting with experts; attending collaborative meetings with university faculty and school and district level administrators; auditing courses and attending trainings in qualitative research, mixed methods, and cost analysis; and attending grant writing groups and workshops.